Ten months after their epic election battle, President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to still be competing for the status of victim.
Clinton has put forward several of the ingredients for those of her supporters who may wish to canonize her as an electoral martyr.
She has cited misogyny, alleged Russian hackers, news media practices, WikiLeaks and the eleventh-hour actions of former FBI Director James Comey as factors in her loss to Trump.
This week, portions of her new book “What Happened” were released in which she pointed to the campaign of Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders.
“His attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ campaign,” Clinton writes.
Some of this may go in the same files as when, back during the troubles of President Bill Clinton, she evoked the doings of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
Victim status ordinarily would tilt toward the loser of the race, giving Clinton the upper hand in this unique contest-after-the-contest over who had more to overcome.
But before and even after he took office, Trump laid the bigger and more sweeping claims to suffering the wounds inflicted by his political detractors.
GOP primaries were rigged against him, he said. Crowds at his inaugural were undercounted, he said. The popular vote count included millions of chimerical illegal votes, he imagined out loud. And so on.
“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” Trump complained in May at a Coast Guard Academy address. “No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”
For the audacity of this stated grievance — key to any political-victim competition — Clinton is up against the best. But she shows some of the right stuff, too.
At the outset of her campaign in 2015, she saw such a clear path to the nomination that some in her camp even wondered if it wouldn’t be best to have a primary opponent if only to help with exposure and preparation for the general election.
Besides, a competition-free nomination for an open presidency is unheard of. Out of the pack of underdogs, Sanders had the clearest populist message. Even Clinton backers pointed out he’d been giving the same speech for 40 years.
Sanders — a Democratic Party outsider, registered as an independent — surely seemed way more devoted to his message than to her destruction.
Clinton acknowledges his support for her after the primary. But she also says he resorted to “innuendo and impugning my character.”
Still, Trump has to win the point when he tweets, for example, of the Russia probe: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
These days, a lot is written about “victim culture,” the “culture of complaint,” and “microaggressions,” usually on college campuses.
Apparently personal victimhood, whether documented or not, has currency in electoral politics as well. Maybe candidates from a yet-to-be-formed “Pity Party” can join Republicans and Democrats on the ballot.